About two weekends ago, yours truly was playing in autumn leaves on a sunny day so warm, no jacket was required. But since then, as usually happens in Chicago, we basically skipped temperatures in the 60’s or 50’s and dove straight down to the 40’s and 30’s — and at night, even dipping into the 20’s!
From bikeways to pedways, it’s good to know that the city of Chicago provides many ways for its citizens and visitors to get around comfortably. The pedway system is most popular in the winter, but also handy on those unbearably hot sweltering days of summer as well as during precipitation or high winds.
When it turns cold, the heated pedways become flooded with pedestrians. The pedway is a labyrinth of mostly underground hallways and tunnels plus some sky bridges. Using pedways and cutting through buildings to escape the harsh weather is the savvy way to get around.
There are several buildings downtown that are a block long, one right after the other in some areas (like in the south LaSalle Street business district). Explore a bit as you traverse the city on foot; find out which ones you can cut through to do part of your commute indoors to escape the elements. Be aware, however, that your chance of utilizing these routes is drastically reduced as 6:00 p.m. approaches when many buildings close their thoroughfares.
However, if you’re walking along State Street or one of the shopping districts, there are several department stores and malls one can cross through going any direction. You might even get some shopping done if something catches your eye as you pass through. Hotels are also good for ducking out of the elements and snaking through indoors, sometimes even shaving off two blocks’ walk in nasty weather.
But the pedways are really where it’s at, and there are several of them running like an intricate maze under the city as well as above the city.
In the 203 North LaSalle Street building, not only is there the CTA train system with underground walkways to connect with trains shooting out from the city in all directions, but on the second floor, there is an indoor pathway through several buildings all the way to State Street. Take the escalators to the second floor, walk east, and you’ll soon find yourself in a catwalk. You will go up and down stairways at times as you wind your way through the buildings lining Lake Street, finally crossing through the back hallway of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel with ATM’s, shops, and places to eat before emerging on the corner of either State and Lake, or if you enter the hotel and jut through the lobby, State and Wacker. Obviously the same route can be taken in reverse.
But the really long and amazing pedway is one that goes all the way from some of the residential buildings on the south bank of the Chicago River east of Michigan Avenue all the way to City Hall — or if you prefer, you can turn south in the pedway, heading into the center of the Loop, emerging on an escalator in the Three First National Plaza building, across Madison Street from Chase Tower (bank), where you can also cut through.
There’s more than one train depot in this pedway where you can stop to shop, eat, grab a cocktail, even swim at an underground pool! This amazing pedway gives you access to the Michigan Plaza on North Michigan Avenue, with its awesome array of businesses, eateries, stores, services and salons. It also takes you to the Cultural Center, then on past LA Fitness to Macy’s, then to the eating spots and shops at Block 37 and on to various municipal and office buildings including the Illinois Center. Mentioned here are just a handful of the buildings you can get to via the pedway.
Insider tip: While you’re in the pedway, you are indoors. Take off your hat and gloves, unbutton your coat and loosen your scarf. If not, you’ll find yourself sweating, which is not a healthy way to exit the pedway back into the cold on the other end.
Exploring the pedway on your own can feel like an adventure, but it can also be a bit daunting if it’s new to you. Just like the street above, people are scurrying along — especially those catching trains — plus there are some less populated sections with almost a seedy feel where someone may ask you for money.
If you want to become a pedway pro, try a pedway tour. There are several, most costing about $20 or $25, and they’re easy to find on the Internet. Wear your walking shoes and outerwear that’s not too bulky to carry, because the tours last an hour or more — that’s because the Chicago pedways are so amazing! On tour, you’ll learn some Chicago history that will fascinate and amuse while you learn to navigate the underground matrix.